When I was growing up my mother was never one to stand into the crowd.  She made sure that we didn’t either.  When I was kicked out of girl scouts, unfairly mind you, she started a troop of her own for me to join.  When she started a community garden she came to church dressed in a tomato costume.  When I wanted to be a genie for Halloween and we couldn’t afford a bought costume like the one from “I Dream of Genie” my mother did the best she could to make me what can only be described as an “obviously home-made” costume.  I remember being embarrassed if not mortified to stand out so much.

This embarrassment formed in me a keen sense of what it means to stand out and stand up.  That marching to the beat of your own drummer is indeed the best way to go through life.  These experiences, over the years, fostered in me a need to stand out and be heard – a trait I’d like to pass onto my kids here in Buea. Not just because I think it’s a good thing to have pride no matter where you are or what you are doing, but because of the work I am trying to get them to understand.  If you want to be an advocate for the poor and the disenfranchised you have to know how to stand outside the norm and say no to what is commonly accepted.  Advocacy is about standing up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone.

Flash forward – today we had the March Past for Youth Day, an event to me that seemed more about the officials watching than the kids marching.  I spent a week making t-shirts and a banner for my kids.  Yes, hand made t-shirts that did not look as “cool” to some Cameroonians as the screen-printed ones.  Well, I explained to my kids that hand made t-shirts like these, in the US, are very popular and that these other kids just didn’t know.  So, when the kids from choir started saying something we just shouted back, “it’s American style.” 

When two extra kids came and didn’t have t-shirts to wear we marched along anyway – making a colorful line of white and blue.  When the police official tried to pull out the kids who were not in our uniform t-shirts my kids stood up to them saying, “we are one group and we mean for our line to look like this.”  I have never been a prouder person in my life.

In the 30 seconds it took us to march past the adults I learned more about what my kids are made of then in the entire 7 months prior.  We were one group and we finished with pride.  We did our chant and then parted company.  A monumental 30 seconds that I hope will stay with me for a long time.